tree branches images
Biology- Faculty Research

Overview of variety of research projects conducted by our faculty with graduate & undergraduate students.

Student presenting poster session

In addition to Lyman Briggs College, each Biology Faculty member is also appointed in a department across campus where they have a research laboratory. They all have doctorate degrees and postdoctoral experience in a variety of research areas including the ecology of lakes, insects and rainforests, as well as genetics of cells and diseases. In addition to being actively involved in biology research projects and publishing scholarship in their discipline, all the Briggs Biology faculty also study student learning and pursue formal research projects designed to improve student mastery of topics and skills in their classes.

Jaguar caught on camera

Biology Research Projects

Kendra Cheruvelil ( examines the roles that disturbance (human and natural) have on lake biology and chemistry across scales of time; for example aquatic plants (native and alien) and their management in lake foodwebs. She uses a variety of approaches such as lake field surveys, mesocosm experiments, and computational approaches (e.g. multi-level modeling, constrained spectral clustering, agent-based modeling).

Peter White ( investigates the biotic and abiotic drivers of Lepidoptera (moth) assemblage diversity, richness and abundance over moderate temporal and spatial scales. Lepidoptera play a key role in forest ecosystems by converting nutrient-rich leaves into resources that are accessible to detritivores (i.e. by producing frass) and secondary consumers (i.e. by being food resources themselves).

Jim Smith ( conducts research on the evolutionary relationships of Rhagoletis fruit flies and the parasitoid wasps associated with their eggs, larvae, and pupae. While we are interested in all aspects of the biology of Rhagoletis species, we are particularly interested in deciphering the evolutionary relationships of the naturally occuring Rhagoletis species and populations that are distributed across the temperate zones of the Old and New World.

Jerry Urquhart ( is interested in globalization and its impact on remote communities and environmental effects. Focusing on the coupling of natural and human systems in remote communities with high biodiversity along Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast, his interdisciplinary team is investigating the economic, social, and environmental impacts of globalization and the synergies between them. For example, he is a part of a team of scientists working to illuminate the potential impacts of the Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal proposed for development in the next five years. His previous work in Nicaragua provides baseline data in the canal path for potential biodiversity loss and protection of endangered mammals.

Doug Luckie ( focuses on the pH abnormalities seen in the disease cystic fibrosis. His group believes abnormal extracellular pH might be an important player in CF-related abnormalities. His laboratory characterizes the acidification response of cell over-expressing wild-type and mutant CFTR to elucidate whether the malfunction in cystic fibrosis alters normal pHo (and pHi), bicarbonate flux, Na/H exchange, and metabolic rate of the cell.

tsi graph

Student Learning Research Projects

Kendra Cheruvelil has collaborated and published with Jim Smith and has been studying the social and cooperative behavior of students working in teams and how to aid them mastering the skills to work like experts do in pursuing science research in the laboratory.

Peter White has collaborated with Jim Smith and been developing biology cases (evo-ed) that explain to students how to connect their learning of the tiny things in Biology like mutations in DNA, cells, organisms, to the bigger things like populations, biomes, ecology and evolution.

Jim Smith has collaborated with Rob Pennock (HPS) and been studying how a system of artificial life forms (avida-ed) that evolve naturally can aid student learning of how experts thing about the the landmark law of Biology, Evolution.

Jerry Urquhart has collaborated with Maxine Davis and Samantha Cass and others to develop an Inquire Scholars program to enhance the speed by which Michigan students master expert science thinking when entering college.

Doug Luckie has collaborated with Diane Ebert-May (plant biology), Kendra Cheruvelil and Ryan Sweeder (chemistry) in studying what methods can help students have authentic research experiences in the classroom laboratories as well as connect knowledge they gain in different classes and research experiences and use it to build greater expertise.

students working in lab